Install Linux or windows without a cd drive or usb just direct access to the hard drive.
October 4, 2010 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Install Linux or windows without a cd drive or usb just direct access to the hard drive. I have an old cf-29 toughbook by Panasonic that I've had for years. I'm trying to resurrect it and for the life of me cant remember my own cmos password. Aside from possibly nuking the bios password which will be near impossible due to the NATO standards this notebook was built to. I was thinking I would just try to install an OS directly to the hard drive and simply transplant it back into the toughbook.

My question is how the heck could I accomplish this. I have tried plugging ubuntu into it via my friends laptop than transferring it into the toughbook to no avail I get a really strange error. Though I was trying to retain the original partition table so it might still work.

I'm looking mainly for the operating system injection option because I dont want to brick my laptop entirely.

I have read some old, apparently really old posts online about nuking the cmos or something like that but that seems way too risky for me.

Also the clear cmos pin would seem to be really difficult as noone has any tear down/disassembly photos of the motherboard.
posted by Chamunks to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I get a really strange error

What's the error?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:32 PM on October 4, 2010

CF-29's have SD card slots, PCMCIA slots, and came with a floppy drive.
posted by rhizome at 12:37 PM on October 4, 2010

I'm confused. When you refer to CMOS password, are you talking about the password that the laptop requires to proceed past the initial BIOS initialization process? Or are you talking about a password that prevents you from changing configuration information in the BIOS? If the former, Linux will not help you in this problem.

If the latter, we need to see the error, but you really can just install ubuntu. I suppose you may have problems with UUIDs referencing disks that don't exist or some such silliness, depending on how they're generated, but there isn't a technical reason why you can't do this type of install.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 12:38 PM on October 4, 2010

The password to reconfigure the bios only. Thus preventing me from being able to re-enable the ability to change boot options. The moment I heard about cold boot attacks I did what I could to help make it much more difficult to preform them on all of my machines by disabling unnecessary boot devices.

I can try and throw the whole rig together but it was something along the lines of invalid arguement (or something) "Terminal" as far as i can recall its been about a week since I've last tried.

If need be I can also try and teardown the whole machine and take some photos of the mainboard and post them too if I must.
posted by Chamunks at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2010

My floppy drive is long gone. :S
posted by Chamunks at 12:43 PM on October 4, 2010

How handy are you with a soldering iron? You can build your own "Password Skipping Plug" with a PS/2 plug and a parallel plug. From the Toughbook Service Manual (page 4-1):

When “Enter password” is displayed, use “Password Skipping Plug” in order to skip the user

1. Connect the parallel plug to the parallel port.
2. Connect the PS/2 mouse plug to the mouse port
3. Power on the computer.

The wiring of the parallel plug is described below:

Connect pins 2-5-6-8-11-13-15-18-19-20-21-22-23 to Shield GND (PS/2 mouse plug pin3).
Connect pins 3-4-7-9-10-12 to VC5 (PS/2 mouse plug pin4) with 4.7KW each.

Failing that, more detail on the "strange error" would help.
posted by hjd at 12:47 PM on October 4, 2010

Chamunks: "My floppy drive is long gone. :S"

Did you read the link? I'm not only talking about floppy drives.
posted by rhizome at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2010

Have you tried Panasonic's support site? You have to register (free) but from there you can get manuals, live tech chat, etc. Might be worth a shot. When I was a (Panasonic) copier field tech, I used Toughbooks exclusively. On the ruggedized notebooks, the BIOS passwords are almost impossible to circumvent, by design. As for your error, some of the Toughbooks used a portion of the hard drive for BIOS setup information; if you took the drive out and wiped it/repartitioned it, that could be where your error is coming from.
posted by xedrik at 12:53 PM on October 4, 2010

That cold-boot trick doesn't actually happen in the wild. It's a theoretical attack, not a practical one, and the cost of defending yourself against the hypothetical is virtually always higher than the cost of not.

(Besides, why bother with cold-boot memory attacks when you can just grep somebody's pagefile and unused sectors?)

You want to take an old hard drive (or old throwaway CF card plus CF->IDE adapter; they're pin-compatible!) and set it up to boot DOS or something very DOS-alike, and then google "killcmos" and use that.
posted by mhoye at 12:53 PM on October 4, 2010

@rhizome I didn't see it the first time thank you I will certainly try that. I know that every time I try anything with ubuntu I always try about 10 wrong ways first than find the best way thats ridiculously simple as soon as im ready to give up.

But the fact is that its because of that I absolutely adore ubuntu, it seems as though there's always a solution worth using.
posted by Chamunks at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2010

This is somewhat of an aside, but if you're trying to put Ubuntu on it you likely won't be able to put anything newer than 8.04 on there. I haven't tried with the CF-29 specifically but all of the Toughbooks of that vintage don't seem to like any version newer than 8.04 (install will go ok, it will boot to black screen and you can work from a command line but no visual OS. I've tried most of the display driver "fixes" with no luck).
posted by Challahtronix at 1:04 PM on October 4, 2010

@mhoye truthfully I know the cold boot attacks don't happen but its still nice to know that your secured against most offline attacks.

I tried saving the file-system on the drive that's in the drive because I use full drive encryption. But it doesn't matter all the data that was on the drive is now moot anyways.

Also CF card? I have a cf-ide connector right now in a hardened firewall box but I don't see why I would use a different hard drive when the one inside the laptop is working fine I just cant manage to boot any installable media. Don't get me wrong I'm open to any idea that helps me avoid hardware hacks because they tend to be more... damaging sometimes.

@hjd, the "strange error" issue seems to be restricted to the fact that I had a weird setup on the drive. I just tried booting it and just simply got an "operating system not found".

Also is that service manual you linked official?
posted by Chamunks at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2010

@Challahtronix I can verify that what you said is correct one of the neumerous situations that I had tried suggests that I had that exact experience. I saw a ubuntu boot screen for a fraction of a moment than saw nothing. Than no input I entered got me to any terminals. So I scratched the method and tried again. So what your suggesting is that essentially I might have been on the right path just that the new version of ubuntu is just simply not compatible... hmm.

So far all of this is extremely helpful thank you mefi keep up the pure high octane awesome.
posted by Chamunks at 1:10 PM on October 4, 2010

This is maybe a long shot, but when I was trying to boot my old Dell laptop and it came up with a BIOS password I'm 99% sure I never set, Dell was able to hook me up with the all access BIOS password despite the fact I was out of warranty. (Once I proved I was in fact the owner etc etc)

So I'd talk to Panasonic first if I were you.
posted by saveyoursanity at 1:14 PM on October 4, 2010

I really have no idea when it was exactly that I bought this and I am religious in the never keep receipts around past their warranty. Now I'm starting to think that I should get myself one of those scansnap jobs from fujitsu so I can change that policy lol.
posted by Chamunks at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2010

I've also read that for the most part you have to just pay them to replace your eprom and I'm trying to avoid the whole paying again for this old rig.
posted by Chamunks at 1:27 PM on October 4, 2010

@mhoye I've read a few things about killcmos but I don't want some miscellaneous version off some shady site that's usually how you find your way into owning a really expensive paperweight.

Most places seem to suggest killcmos is old news or something :S.
posted by Chamunks at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2010

All you should have to do is remove the CMOS battery and the bios should be reset to factory defaults. Here is a link to the cf-29 service manual. The hardest thing for me when working with laptops is getting the case aligned properly when putting it back together.
posted by calumet43 at 3:16 PM on October 4, 2010

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